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Overall Rating
3.31

Awesome: 14.75%
Worth A Look: 22.95%
Average49.18%
Pretty Bad: 4.92%
Total Crap: 8.2%

4 reviews, 37 user ratings


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Conspiracy Theory
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Gibson shines; last third goes into the toilet."
3 stars

An hour after coming home from 'Conspiracy Theory,' I read Entertainment Weekly's cover story on it and was most unsurprised to find the following sentence: "Unable to resolve how the movie should end, [director Richard Donner] filmed two different endings and left the final decision up to a test audience."

Test audience: the two ugliest words in a movie buff's vocabulary. Has there ever been a film that benefited from such cowardly studio waffling? It's a shame, because Conspiracy Theory is two-thirds of a fine comedy of paranoia. At its best, it's a Looney Tunes riff on Taxi Driver and The Manchurian Candidate, with Mel Gibson as the looniest toon of his career.

Jerry Fletcher (Gibson), a grungy New York cabbie, has an elaborate theory for everything. Bobbing along in his own private sea of crackpot logic, Jerry is the most entertaining creature of the season. This is the fifth time Gibson has worked with Richard Donner -- their other four team-ups were the Lethal Weapon trilogy and Maverick -- and these men obviously go well together; they bring out each other's playfulness. As long as Donner stays with the babbling Gibson (in one of his riskiest and least sexy performances), the movie is completely satisfying.

But then the script (by Brian Helgeland) embroils Jerry in a real conspiracy. Jerry, it turns out, isn't as nutty as he seems. Donner and Helgeland keep us as confused as Jerry is, zapping us with flashbacks or, perhaps, flash-forwards -- they're flashes, anyway. The only one who can help Jerry is Alice Sutton (Julia Roberts), a Justice Department lawyer whom he loves from afar. He's been pestering her for months with one theory or another, but will she believe him when it really counts?

Conspiracy Theory works as a twisty thriller given a manic edge by Gibson. Donner has fun with the paranoid theme of such thrillers -- that you can't trust anyone or anything, even your own memory. The chief villain, played by Patrick Stewart with cool malice, spends half the movie with his nose bandaged (after Jerry bites him) -- one of several nods to Chinatown. Helgeland writes some wonderful rants that Gibson happily sinks his teeth into, and the production design in Jerry's cluttered maze of an apartment is a triumph (he has padlocks on the fridge and on the food inside); when the place was blown up, I felt a pang of loss, as if a quirky supporting character had been killed off.

Then we come to the third act, when the movie lapses into generic action scenes, contrived revelations, and half-baked romance. I won't reveal the ending, but it's the kind of cop-out that seems to please test audiences (and insecure studio execs). It didn't please me; as Julia Roberts got onto her beloved old horse and rode towards a potential sequel, I looked away in embarrassment.

'Conspiracy Theory' is well worth seeing for Mel Gibson's immensely enjoyable performance and the edgy comedy of its first hour. But once the movie starts heading for its climax, don't trust anything it says.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=388&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/27/07 08:42:13
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User Comments

10/13/10 PAUL SHORTT ENTERTAINING PARANOID THRILLER WITH A GOOD STAR PERFORMANCE 3 stars
10/03/08 Lenny Zane What Julia Roberts CAN do. Why oh why slum in inane RunawayBride & insufferable TheMexican? 5 stars
2/03/07 David Pollastrini kind of slow 3 stars
10/22/05 ed mampel a fun-time movie 4 stars
8/25/05 ES This movie makes little sense and has Julia Roberts, nuff said 2 stars
3/14/05 dok Mel Gibson gives one of the worst performances I've ever had the misfortune to see. 1 stars
12/08/04 lucas nothing is what it seems 3 stars
5/05/04 daniel Mcgaffin loves the cock mcgaffin wants it in the arse 5 stars
3/06/04 LIAM JACKSON Patrick Stewart was very creepy in this 5 stars
11/28/03 john a thriller with a Capra like emotional twist to it - exiting and...well sweet 5 stars
10/20/03 Samuel Justus I dont't have to tell you it sucks...It came out to video in like 2 weeks! 1 stars
9/05/03 Wendy Welch Julia Roberts's best movie! A whacky but compelling thrill ride! 5 stars
5/20/03 mr. Pink This movie gave me a fuckin' headache while watching it! Really, I was sick for 4 days! 1 stars
3/22/03 Jack Sommersby Gibson & first-half=superb/Roberts & second-half=banal. 3 stars
10/16/02 Charles Tatum Roberts and Gibson learn chemistry is important 1 stars
9/26/02 Movie guy great 5 stars
7/05/02 KMG Would've been good except Julia's in it 3 stars
1/25/02 Melvin Suarez Superb! Why can't Julia Roberts always be this sweet 5 stars
8/09/01 E-Funk Who cares? This one came out of left field. 2 stars
8/08/01 Mr. Hat One of many great 1997 movies. 4 stars
6/12/01 cinkcool Gibson carries the show. Other than that, pretty crappy movie. 3 stars
4/05/01 Hawkeye Gets my vote just for Mel's eerily adept rendition of "stark raving bonkers." Worth seeing! 5 stars
1/14/01 R.W. Welch Pretty clever plot idea, reasonably well carried out. 4 stars
7/17/00 doug average movie, great mel 3 stars
1/29/99 Scott Stipe It's soo good it makes you nervous 5 stars
1/12/99 demon_shredder NOthing special but not that bad either. 3 stars
11/26/98 Mr.Pink I literally got sick of seeing this movie. 1 stars
10/27/98 Silent Rob Another film for people who love TV 3 stars
9/23/98 Rob Forey now I can't talk long cause they're taping this :) It was good.. kinda. 4 stars
9/06/98 Janine slight suspense, a few twists, somewhat comic at times, not one to watch repeatedly though 4 stars
8/28/98 Chuck-D I dunno why but I liked it. Mel does the clueless bit better than you'd expect. 4 stars
8/26/98 PyThomas Enough plot twists to make a bag of pretzels. Intelligent and funny. 4 stars
8/24/98 JenniferLorraine Interesting story line. I know some people like that. (hope they don't see this) 3 stars
8/23/98 Mister Whoopee Julia AGAIN doesn't get naked. What's with that? 2 stars
8/17/98 Johny I liked it until the big, stupid plot twist 3 stars
8/17/98 {{{OZ}}} Julia Roberts is niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice. Truly. 4 stars
8/17/98 J-Guy (The MFC) 3 words: needs more dialog. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  08-Aug-1997 (R)

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